Unsafe plant that can cause blindness, severe burns spotted in Virginia

Credit MaxPixel

Credit MaxPixel

What ScienceAlert calls a "giant horror plant" has made its way to yet another USA state, and people who come in contact with it could feel the pain.

About 30 giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) plants have been identified on an undisclosed property in eastern Clarke County, according to extension agent Mark Sutphin, who works in the Winchester office.

A noxious, alien and invasive plant that looks like Queen Anne's lace on steroids - giant hogweed - is causing some concerns after being found in multiple states, including Pennsylvania. Giant Hogweed is an invasive species that has never been seen before in Virginia. If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers. Sap in a person's eye can damage their vision as well, possibly resulting in blindness. If you must touch giant hogweed, wear disposable rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers.

Giant hogweed originates from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas by Russian Federation - but it made its way to the U.S.by the early 20th century.

The plant grows very tall - as high as 14-feet. In the early 20th century, the herb was introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental garden plant - the impressively-sized plant's white flower heads can reach two and a half feet in diameter.

The plant's hollow stems are generally two to four inches in diameter, with dark purple and red raised spots and bristle-like hairs.

While giant hogweed was often originally planted for ornamental reasons, it can spread if soil containing plant or seeds gets moved or if seeds are carried by wind or a person or animal to a new location.

"Do not mow, cut or weed whack the plant, as it will just send up new growth and put you at risk for being exposed to sap - the same kind of thing that would happen with poison ivy or sumac".

Affective methods include tedious work, such as cutting the plant roots, removing seed heads, eliminating them when they're still young, and using large amounts of herbicide, all while wearing intricate protective gear.

When the plant was spotted in NY, the state health department recommended that those exposed to the plant cleanse the affected area with cold water and remain out of sunlight.

Authorities say that if you are exposed to the sap, your first goal should be to get out of the sunlight and into shade, immediately if not sooner.

After a burn, skin can be especially sensitive to sun exposure for several years.

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